New research building will make campus more connected

Daniel Tkacik Feb 13, 2012

Make some room, Hamerschlag Hall and Wean Hall. A new state-of-the-art building to house the department of biomedical engineering and the Energy Futures Institute is in the works.

The university has recently committed to building a 100,000-square-foot biomedical engineering, nanotechnology, and energy facility that will sit among Hamerschlag, Wean, and Roberts Engineering halls. Pradeep Khosla, dean of the Carnegie Institute of Technology (CIT), said that he has been pushing for the approval and construction of this building for the last five or six years.

“We are going to do this building because, for the college to be competitive, we need to have state-of-the-art infrastructure that allows us to recruit the best and the brightest faculty, which in turn allows us to recruit the best and brightest students,” Khosla said. “I think this building is going to be critical in maintaining our competitive edge.”

Khosla said that the building will be built predominantly for research use. In addition to housing the biomedical engineering department, there will be a 10,000-square-foot nanofabrication facility, over twice as large as the current 4,000-square-foot facility in Hamerschlag Hall. Lastly, it will house Carnegie Mellon’s Energy Futures Institute, which focuses research on solving energy problems, such as the transition from fossil fuels to new energy sources and developing a smart electricity grid, according to the department’s website.

Hoping to follow in the footsteps of the Gates Hillman Complex, which won LEED Gold certification last November, the new building will employ sustainable “green” technologies. Khosla said that the university is still working with the building’s architect, OFFICE 52, to finalize those plans. “We know it will be at least LEED Silver, probably more,” he said.

The new building will connect two floors to Hamerschlag, Wean, and Roberts Engineering halls, and an additional connection will be made to Porter Hall. “There is no such connection right now, and I wanted to integrate this side of campus, which is mainly engineering, into one cohesive hall,” Khosla explained. He hopes that this integration between buildings will encourage collaboration between students and researchers across departments.

The area around the new building will be slightly altered, as well. The patio that connects Wean, Hamerschlag, and Porter halls will be filled in with more green area so the Mall will extend from the College of Fine Arts all the way to Hamerschlag Hall. This, Khosla explained, is the way that the new building’s architect thinks that Henry Hornbostel, the campus’ original architect, intended it to be.

“It’s going to be a building that satisfies the contemporary needs, but respects the Hornbostel vision and puts it in perspective,” Khosla said.

Bryan Good, a senior biomedical engineering student, is excited for the plan. “Currently, most of the research labs are located at the Pittsburgh Technology Center, which is very inconvenient for students and faculty,” Good said. “Having more research facilities on campus will help get more undergrads involved in research and also help entice the best faculty to join the department.”

The new building is included in the Institutional Master Plan, a 10-year plan that includes projects like relocating the Tepper School of Business and expanding the Heinz College. Plans for the new building are currently in the process of gaining approval from the university’s board of trustees. Khosla has already begun fundraising for the event.

“There’s a lot of excitement amongst our alumni to help support what they think of as a worthwhile and visionary project,” Khosla said.

Khosla is confident the project will be well received by the board. “I’m hoping about 30 months from now, the building will be finished,” he said.